How To Select A Rice CookerA rice cooker and be a very useful and versatile kitchen appliance. In addition to being one of our favorite household pieces of equipment it is one of our top 10 must have appliances for dorm room cooking.
Article by: Barbara Bowman
Rice Cooker Uses
A rice cooker can be used to cook rice, hot cereal, desserts and even steam vegetables and cook soups and stews. Not every rice cooker can perform every task so make sure you to select the right cooker for your needs.
The best quality rice cookers are still made in Japan. You can purchase less expensive machines made in other countries but you won't get the same amount of use out of them.
Basic Rice Cooker Features
Rice Cooker Size
Rice cookers measure capacity by the cup and range from 3 cups to 10 cups. Don't buy a large unit than you need because the rice cooker is designed to operate properly with a specific amount of rice and water. You also want to avoid overfilling your cooker because it will cause it to boil over which is quite messy.
Japanese vs US Cup Size
When you buy a rice cooker by Japanese manufactures, be aware that one Japanese cup is 200 ml in compared to one American cup is 240 ml. Save the plastic measure cup that comes with your rice cooker. If you use recipes that don't state if they are referring to "rice cooker cups", then you may need to adjust your recipes.
The average Japanese household uses a 5-cup capacity rice cooker.
Yields - One cup of uncooked rice yields to about 1 1/2 cup of cooked rice.
Small 3 - 4 cup
Medium 5 - 6 cup
Large 8 - 10 cup
Larger - Jumbo 14+ cups
Types of Rice Cookers
Although there seem to be many options out there there are only a few basic types of cookers:
Cook and turn off - The rice cooks and the unit shuts off automatically. This is the least expensive yet highly flexible machine. There is no light that indicates the rice is done. The on/off switch flips to the "off" position when the rice is done. These basic cookers don't normally offer non-stick pans or steamer units but if all you want is "rice" they do a very good job. You can find these cookers for as little as $20.00.
Cook and keep warm
The rice cooks, reduces the heat when the rice is done then maintains it at a "warm" temperature (duration varies). The way you shut these off is to unplug it. We find these cookers to be some of the most flexible at a reasonable price. Shop to find special features like non-stick pan, steamer baskets. Plan to spend $40 to $70.00.
Electronic Cook and Keep Warm
A sensor in the unit keeps rice warm for up to 12 hours. These machines are more expensive but if your household eats a lot of rice all day long it is a worthwhile investment. Priced at $100 and up.
Basic Fuzzy Logic
A very sophisticated machine with some great features like settings for soup or porridge, brown rice, rice texture (hard or soft) and even a sushi rice setting. These machines are great but very pricey and way more machine than the average US household would use. If you have a small budget then this is not the machine for you but if money is no object, get one! The least expensive model is about $170.00
The most state of the art machine available. The induction system can actually compensate for you measuring errors and still deliver evenly, properly cooked rice. These are the best cookers do the best job with types of rice other than standard white rice. Prices start around $200.00
Choose one with a non-stick pan. My theory is if you don't like to take a lot of time to cook then I really doubt if you want to take a lot of time to clean.
If you don't have to pay a lot extra for it get a clear glass or clear plastic lid. Basic models come with a metal lid.
Some rice cookers are designed specifically for steaming vegetables. Steaming can either be done as the rice finishes, or you can use the pan in the steamer to do only vegetables. Depending on the model you may find units with multiple steamer baskets or perforated metal tray that sits above the rice so you can steam as the rice cooks. Other versions have a small tray that sits at the bottom of the rice cooker right about the cooking element. Although there units cost more than the very basic models if you are looking for a highly flexible, safe machine this is a good feature to look for.
Fuzzy Logic Advantage
Just one press of the Menu Select key gets you started. Multiple cooking menu available such as white rice, mixed rice, glutinous rice, brown rice, and non-sticky rice, etc…
This was designed for making a popular Asian breakfast rice. You can use for breakfast cereals and other slow cooking recipes.
The reheat feature warms rice back to proper temperature in about 5 to 10 minutes and then maintains the heat.
Quick Cook Function
This function bypasses the soak time and goes right to the cook cycle. It's a good advanced feature if you find yourself always having to cook in a hurry.
The more sophisticated machines allow you to select the rice texture you prefer such as regular, softer or firmer.
The fuse will trip and prevent possible fires. This is important for an appliance you may leave on unattended.
Auto cord reel
Keeps the cord out of the way so you or your pet or child does not accidentally yank the unit off the counter.